Vanna White has been turning letters and clapping on Wheel of Fortune longer than many readers of this article have probably been alive, but she and the show are still highly successful. White first appeared on Wheel of Fortune, which taped its 6,000th episode earlier this month, in the early 1980s and is still there applauding each letter that lights up.
Since being cast over 200 other women in 1982, Vanna White has become an iconic and parodied symbol. Wheel of Fortune is celebrating its longevity with special shows the week of April 28 through May 2 and special $6,000 prizes. Here are some tidbits that have emerged through the years about White and the show:
- During the 6,000 plus shows, Vanna White has never worn an outfit on-air twice. The style has changed periodically, as hemlines, necklines and use of shoulder pads comes and goes. One constant has been the penchant for sequins.
- She has not physically turned any letters for almost 30 years. In 1997, the puzzleboard was computerized to save production time and eliminate the need to physically set up each letter. The change also eliminated the possibility of mistakes such as the time White turned the wrong letter and they had to discard the puzzle.
- White sees the puzzle answers before every round so she can respond immediately when a contestant states a letter and knows where to walk and when along the set.
- White and host Pat Sajak have taped the show while drunk multiple times when they were younger. They used to take a dinner break between taping shows. The duo would head over to a Mexican restaurant across from the studio and have several margaritas before heading back to tape more shows.
- Inflation has hit everything but the vowels on the show. It has cost contestants $250 to buy a vowel for more than 30 years.
Now 57, White was born Vanna Marie Rosich on Feb. 18, 1957. After her parents split up, White was raised by her mother and stepfather, John and Herbert White, Jr., in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. After high school, she attended the Atlanta School of Fashion and worked as a model in Georgia prior to heading for Hollywood in 1979. She appeared in minor roles in largely forgettable films before getting the Wheel of Fortune gig. While on the show she has married, raised two children and divorced. White is passionate about crocheting and even has her own line of yarn, “Vanna’s Choice,” with a portion of proceeds going to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
While critics mocked have her Wheel of Fortune role as limited to pointing to or turning letters, dressing nice and mindlessly applauding, White harbors no illusions. She knows her only acting these days is feigning excitement when applauding for contestants (and taking that to the bank!). She has publically said, “It’s not the most intellectual job in the world, but I do have to know the letters.” She has also self-deprecatingly joked that the alphabet soup she used to eat paid off.
Television game shows were the first reality shows (other than the news) and have lasted for generations. They may not be as popular as they once were. However, 6,000 shows and gowns later, the Wheel, letters and fortune are still turning for Vanna White.
By Dyanne Weiss